Status Update on Cannabis for Medical Purposes
Six month transition period ends on May 21, 2017
May 15, 2017
Veterans Affairs Canada’s policy on cannabis for medical purposes has the health and well-being of Veterans and their families at its heart. That is why the Department supports Veterans who say that cannabis for medical purposes relieve symptoms associated with a variety of illnesses and conditions which have not responded to conventional medical treatments.
On November 22, 2016, Veterans Affairs Canada announced a new reimbursement policy on cannabis for medical purposes. The policy established a reimbursement limit of up to three grams per day of dried marijuana. It also added access to fresh marijuana and cannabis oil for the first time ever.
A six month transition period was implemented for Veterans being reimbursed for more than three grams per day. The transition period ends May 21, and effective May 22, 2017, the maximum reimbursement will be three grams per day. There is a process for exceptional circumstances whereby a Veteran can seek reimbursement for more than three grams per day. To apply, Veterans need to obtain a rationale from a medical specialist related to their condition.
Eligible Veterans diagnosed with ALS do not require anything more than their physician's validation of such a diagnosis.
We have heard Veterans concerns regarding the need for specialists’ authorizations. As a result, we are amending the guidelines for Veterans diagnosed with both chronic pain and a psychiatric condition. Previously, medical specialists for each condition would have to approve an exceptional request for reimbursement for more than three grams of cannabis. As of today, only one specialist's approval is required.
Since announcing changes to the reimbursement policy for cannabis for medical purposes last year, Veterans Affairs Canada and the Department of National Defence (DND) have been reviewing existing research on the use cannabis for medical purposes. Recognizing that this is still an emerging practice and field of study, the Department wants to ensure that the specific direction of its research initiative undertaken with DND will have the greatest impact on strengthening evidence on the effects of marijuana on the health of Veterans.
Veterans Affairs Canada will continue to monitor information as it becomes available and adjust the policy, as and when necessary as part of our ongoing commitment. In addition, the Department will continue to consult with health and research professionals, Veteran beneficiaries and licensed producers to discuss ways of improving the functionality of the reimbursement policy and processes.
- Veterans Affairs Canada continues to be the only government reimburser of cannabis for medical purposes in North America.
- As of May 21, 2017, more than 4,000 claims have been submitted for cannabis for medical purposes and 91 percent of those requests were approved. Some reasons why requests for three grams or less would be declined include: lack of documentation from a physician or no established link to an awarded condition.
- As of May 21, 2017, the Department has received fewer than 100 requests for exceptional approval and of those processed to date, approximately 33% have been approved. Some of the most common reasons Veterans’ requests for exceptional approval would be declined include: lack of documentation from a specialist or insufficient rationale for why the Veteran needs more than three grams per day.
- Veterans being reimbursed for cannabis for medical purposes may be reimbursed for travel expenses to see a specialist.
- Ongoing support will be provided to Veterans and their families through operational stress injury clinics, multidisciplinary treatment centres, Military Family Resource Centres, case management services, VAC Assistance Services and online/mobile apps.
- The reimbursement policy allows every eligible recipient seeking reimbursement for three grams to receive up to $9,300 dollars per year.
- News Release - New Reimbursement Policy on Cannabis for Medical Purposes
- Cannabis for Medical Purposes Information Page
- Frequently Asked Questions
- Medical Use of Cannabis (Health Canada)
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